2021
Corporate 401(k) >$50MM–$150MM

Barilla America

FINALIST
Laura Birk
Head of Human Resources
  • Plan(s)
    401(k)
  • Total Plan Assets
    $107.6MM
  • Number of Participants
    721
  • Participation Rate
    94.2%
  • Average Deferral Rate
    9.6%
  • Default Deferral Rate
    6%
  • Default Investment
    Fidelity Freedom Funds
  • Automatic Enrollment
  • Automatic Escalation
  • Employer Contribution
    100% up to 6%
  • Provider(s)
    Recordkeeper: Fidelity Investments; Adviser: Sheridan Road Financial
  • Financial Wellness Educator(s)
    Fidelity Investments

A division of a global manufacturer of pasta products, Barilla America, headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois, has multiple production facilities across the U.S. The company takes pride in providing for the staff of those facilities with its retirement savings options, says Laura Birk, head of human resources (HR) at Barilla America.

Barilla America was an early adopter of automatic enrollment, a decade ago, and now defaults participants at a 6% rate, automatically escalating them 1% a year up to 10%. These efforts have helped the company achieve a 94.2% participation rate with a 9.6% average deferral rate. Additionally, 87% of employees defer 6% or more, and 14% defer over 15%.

The company has focused especially on retaining its manufacturing workers and reducing attrition in areas where unemployment is low. To do so, Barilla America utilizes its retirement plan and financial well-being program to attract new employees, while also educating its current employees electronically through email campaigns and online tools and resources.

“Barilla understands today’s challenges of communicating with participants across multiple sites on different work schedules, which was a driver of the current plan design,” notes Jim O’Shaughnessy, managing partner at Sheridan Road Financial, a division of Hub International Ltd., who serves as financial adviser to the plan.

Pre-COVID-19, Barilla often supplied education through on-site meetings, and placed television monitors throughout its manufacturing plant and offices to advertise the meetings or to inform participants about plan updates or changes. Company President Jean-Pierre Comte also posted, and continues to post, newsletters every other week to employees, Birk says.

Last year, Barilla America pushed out a mobile partnership app with its recordkeeper, Fidelity Investments, to reach its participants on a national scale. “Everyone has a cellphone now. Even if you have only five minutes, and you’re thinking about your retirement, it’s not a chore to go on the app and see how your plan and investment selections are doing,” Birk notes.

The company adopted Sheridan Road’s Online Fiduciary Training Center, which provides the investment committee with on-demand fiduciary training, specifically developed to meet the Department of Labor (DOL)’s expectations for retirement plan fiduciaries. The plan committee consists of five of the company’s 12 executives—Birk, the general counsel, chief financial officer (CFO), head of the supply chain and the president—and meets quarterly. The committee also partners with Fidelity and Sheridan Road, meeting regularly to discuss the state of the plan and new best practices to follow.

Outside of communications and education, Barilla America offers a Roth feature along with the 401(k). Birk recalls how several of the company’s employees had inquired about a Roth option, therefore prompting the compensation committee to consider and approve the feature. According to Linda Fraise, payroll manager, “Currently, 6% of employees have selected the Roth as their savings vehicle, with an average deferral of 9%. It’s been nice to see employees taking advantage of all of the tools at their disposal,” she says.

Looking ahead, Barilla America is considering multiple options for helping with student loan repayment after the company conducted an interview with its employees and found that most would save more for retirement if not paying off student debt. Birk says the company is considering matching what employees put toward their debt, or possibly making a direct payment on it, up to 6%.

Birk says providing options to decrease student debt will help employees adjust and meet their financial goals. “There’s an inherent impact that we’re having on their lives, that will not only affect their financial future but also their family’s financial future.”

—Amanda Umpierrez

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